I've intended to write a more in-depth review of the Caran d'Ache Swiss Wood pencil for a while now. It's recently exploded in popularity, so much that they're difficult to get a hold of, and many retailers have raised the price. Pencils.com is sold out again, despite the fact that they now sell the Swiss Wood for over $5 per pencil. C.W. Pencil Enterprise regularly carries them, and they also have the best price at $4.50. What makes this pencil so great? So great, in fact, that it really has been the only pencil that I've used regularly for the past few months?
What I like:
The weight. This is a hefty piece of wood. The marketing copy describes it as dark brown Swiss Beech wood from the Jura forest, but I wonder whether the wood has been dyed that dark brown color. Other products made from beech wood don't have that extremely dark-chocolatey hue, and the soy-sauce/chocolate/earthy smell doesn't exactly smell like wood. But anyway, this pencil is solid, and has near-perfect balance, even without an eraser.
The end cap. Speaking of no eraser, the end cap on this pencil is painted red with the white Swiss Cross. Enough said.
Point Retention. Point retention on this pencil is exceptional. If I had to point to one particular selling point, this would be it. People may ask, "why on early would you spend upwards of $5 on a single pencil," but the Swiss Wood seemingly writes forever. Caran d'Ache has marked the core as an HB, but to me it's a shade lighter and harder (probably more like an "H"). For textured paper (like that found in the Baron Fig notebooks), it's perfect, because it leaves a legible line without forcing you to sharpen your pencil every two pages. Yesterday I wrote three single-spaced pages in a dot-grid Baron Fig Confidant and still had a nearly intact long point on the pencil. The lighter graphite also doesn't ghost or smear.
What I don't like.
"Don't like" is a bit strong for what has become one of my favorite pencils. The lack of general availability can make this pencil hard to use at times, though I'm trying to master my fear of not using my favorite products just because the manufacturer might discontinue them. I have four or five of these pencils, which should last me a good long while. A few more "cons" (though they're pretty nitpicky):
Darkness. Compared to a pencil like the Caran d'Ache Black Wood, the graphite in the Swiss Wood can be too light for some everyday uses. When marking up or annotating documents at work, the Swiss Wood can be borderline illegible for some people. I typically use a pen (with red ink) to mark stuff up, so this isn't a huge deal for me. At the end of the day, every pencil has tradeoffs in this regard: you sacrifice darkness for point retention, and sacrifice point retention for darkness. The point retention on this pencil is so good, and it works so well in my Baron Fig (my preferred pencil paper), that I'm willing to give up some darkness, even though I generally favor 2B pencils.
Price. I feel like I have to mention price again. This is an expensive pencil. One of the most expensive that I own. If the "burn rate" on this pencil was higher, and it didn't last as long as it does, it wouldn't be worth the price to me.
DISCLAIMER: I purchased the product featured in this review with my own funds, for my own personal collection. Pardon the repetition; I did a mini-review of this pencil (along with a few other Caran d'Ache pencils) while back, but I couldn't help revisiting this one because it's been getting a lot of attention lately.